SKOWHEGAN — A computer technician with the school department is concerned that a new ornamental fence along the Kennebec River on West Front Street is dangerous and should be corrected before somebody is hurt.

Or worse.

Skip Sorrentino, 63, said the tops of the fence are pointed spears that could hurt an unwary child. He said school children use the sidewalk where the fence is, near the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge, every day.

State highway officials said the fence style is used elsewhere in Maine with no problems. Local officials said the new fence is no more dangerous than any other fence in a town that has a major river running through it.

“The fence is nice and new and looks like it’s going to be a nice addition to the community, except I’m concerned about this very pointy top on the posts,” Sorrentino said. “If you’re fooling around and somebody pushes somebody over onto it — it’s very sharp relative to body flesh.”

Sorrentino said the town could remedy the problem by installing an additional rail on the top. He said town officials should have thought ahead and installed an eight-foot fence, rather than the four-foot metal fence they settled on.

The spear-like formation is flat and measures about an inch and a half across.

“It’s a perfect spearhead — once you go on there it’s like a hook, you’re not going to come out very easily,” he said.

Otherwise he said, the town and the state did a good job replacing the old fence, which was falling down and posed a hazard.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore and Town Manager John Doucette Jr. said the state Department of Transportation was responsible for the job, which it subcontracted out to local companies. The fence, which is about 445 feet long, was chosen by the town as an alternative to the chain link fence, which came with the project.

Doucette said he has heard nothing but compliments on the fence and the new sidewalk there.
The town paid $9,400 for the fence, which came out of the highway capital improvement fund. The work was completed this summer and the rest of the project was paid for with a mix of local, state and federal money.

Dore said town officials looked at the fence design and did not feel any part of it was dangerous. He said the project was six years in the making.

“When we bought the fence, that wasn’t even brought up,” he said. “You can hurt yourself in a lot of ways. You have to go out of your way to do it there. I don’t think it’s dangerous. The state wouldn’t have even recommended it if it was unsafe. I just disagreed with him that this is a concern.”

Doug Combs, project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said the design, called Buckingham style ornamental fence, is a standard pedestrian fence.

The points on top of the fence are rounded and designed to discourage people from climbing up and over it — in Skowhegan’s case, into the South Channel of the Kennebec River.

“They’re not meant to be anything that would hurt somebody, but so somebody wouldn’t want to get on top of the fence itself,” Combs said. “We have used this style fence in the past; there’s one in Rockland put in June 2007. We haven’t had any issues with that fence, any problem, and it is the exact some style, with the little points on the top.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
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